Fear shook him. What if he disappointed her? He cleared his throat. "I don't think you should credit me with kindness just because I took in a couple of human orphans."
"No?" Her eyes narrowed, and she gave him a probing look. "If it's not kindness, then what is it that makes you treat them the way you do? I'm all ears."
He'd never hear the end of it. He could remember a time when indulging in this sort of softhearted nonsense at sea would've gotten him sliced from nose to gullet. He winced. Soft. That's what he was. "Chocolate cupcakes."
"Beg your pardon?"
"You know, those chocolate cakes with creamy centers. They always smell like cardboard to me, but--"
"I know what they are. What do they have to do with the way you treat Shelby and Sean?"
Fool. He felt so exposed now he may as well go all out and gut himself good. "The first time I watched Sean and Shelby eat chocolate cupcakes, I couldn't look at them the same way I look at other humans. Or maybe I just couldn't look at humans the same way. I don't know."
She didn't even try to stifle her laughter.
He mustered his defense. "Shelby tried to shove the whole thing sideways into her mouth like Sean did, and then she grinned at me with chocolate teeth...and these little crumbs were clinging to her milk moustache..."
Words left him. He smiled and shrugged, his face hot with embarrassment and his throat achy. His gaze clung to hers like a moth dancing around a flame. Where did she get a smile like that? It made him feel as though it were mid-morning on a summer's day.